PIA VPN Review 2021: Before You Buy, Is It Worth It?

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All reviews published on Wizcase meet our strict reviewing standards, in order to ensure that each review is based on the reviewer's independent, honest, and professional examination of the product/service. Such standards require the reviewer to consider the technical qualities and characteristics of the product alongside its commercial value for users, which may affect the product's ranking on the website.

Private Internet Access Overview September 2021

Private Internet Access is a popular VPN with affordable prices and a large user base. However, with the VPN market being more competitive than ever, is PIA still a leading provider or a service you can do without? I wanted to find out if its bargain pricing comes at the sacrifice of good performance, so I thoroughly tested its speed, security, privacy, and more. The result? PIA may be budget-friendly, but it’s also a very good VPN!

As a cautious VPN user, two things may give you pause — PIA’s headquarters in the US and its change in ownership to Kape Technologies. PIA maintains that it has a strong no-logs policy and keeps customer data safe with secure server infrastructure and anonymous payment methods. I’m also satisfied that PIA’s acquisition by Kape is nothing to be worried about and that it still operates as an independent entity.

There are some things that PIA can improve on, but as a whole, I came away more impressed than anything else. Read on to discover all my test results, or check PIA out for yourself risk-free by signing up with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not fully satisfied, you can request a full refund at any time within 30 days of purchase.

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Don’t Have Time? Here’s a Short Summary (1-Minute Read)

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PIA Unblocks Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, but Doesn’t Work With BBC iPlayer

Although PIA doesn’t heavily advertise its ability to unblock streaming platforms, it’s surprisingly effective at doing so. This includes the most popular platforms like Netflix or Disney+, but also more local services like UKTV or Australia’s 9Now. PIA also offers a selection of “streaming optimized” servers for certain locations, which I connected to for several of my tests and can confirm that they offered the most reliable results.

Netflix Disney+ HBO Max Amazon Prime Video Hulu Kodi
Crunchyroll US BBC iPlayer YouTube CBC Eurosport FranceTV
Canal+ ZDF ARD Hotstar India RaiPlay YLE
Ruutu C More MTV Finland HBO Nordic Cmore SE TV4Play

Netflix: Successfully Unblocked

I was able to unblock Netflix with every US-based server I used. I was happy to find that PIA provided speeds fast enough for watching in up to 4K with minimal buffering on local servers. More distant servers worked in up to full HD with slightly longer buffering (up to 25 seconds at the longest).

Screenshot of PIA unblocking Netflix Japan and streaming Modern Family.
I was pleased with the streaming quality on Netflix while connected to PIA

I tested several different servers worldwide to see if I could access content on Netflix US and other libraries through my subscription while abroad. I was easily able to access US content, as well as Canada, the UK, Italy, Japan, and more.

You can see a chart below of the servers that worked, plus those that offer optimized locations for streaming. Bear in mind that your own results will likely look very different than this depending on where you’re located.

Country Optimized Netflix Server? Buffering/Lag
US – East Substantial
US – West Some
UK Minimal
Japan Substantial
Italy None
Finland Minimal
Sweden None
Germany Regular server None
Canada Regular server Some
Australia Regular server Substantial
France Regular server None

Watch Netflix with PIA

Disney+: Successfully Unblocked

I was pleased to find out that PIA unblocked Disney+ with ease during my tests. Several other VPNs I’ve tested have struggled to unblock Disney+, as the media giant has some of the strongest geoblocks. In fact, PIA initially had major difficulties unblocking the service when it launched in 2019, but has since become very capable at unblocking it. I was able to access my account and had a stream of The Mandalorian going within a few seconds.

Screenshot of PIA unblocking Disney+ US and streaming The Mandalorian.
I was thrilled that PIA unblocked Disney+ so I could watch The Mandalorian

HBO Max: Successfully Unblocked

PIA is one of the few streaming services that reliably unblocks HBO Max, giving you access to its library of movies and exclusive TV shows. I watched popular shows, like Ballers and The Righteous Gemstones, in full HD using PIA’s fast connection speeds.

A screenshot of HBO MAX being unblocked while connected to the PIA server in Washington, DC.
PIA easily let me access HBO Max in HD and stream with fast speeds

Watch HBO Max with PIA

Amazon Prime Video: Successfully Unblocked

I was surprised to find out that PIA easily unblocked Amazon Prime Video during my tests. Even though many VPNs can’t get around Amazon Prime Video’s restrictions, PIA managed and I could watch The Expanse on my Prime Video account.

A screenshot of Amazon Prime Video being unblocked while connected to the PIA server in Washington, DC.
PIA can access Amazon Prime Video in 4K without a problem

Kodi: Successfully Unblocked

I had no problems with any of the servers I tested in conjunction with Kodi. There’s no need for optimized servers here, since there’s no real centralized location to unblock. Lots of Kodi content is P2P-based, so the main issue is simply replacing your IP address with another for security’s sake.

Still, I tested Kodi with various European PIA servers and streamed content with the Popcornflix add-on with minimal buffering and good speeds.

Hulu: Successfully Unblocked

Although several sites have reported that PIA can’t unblock Hulu, I found this to be untrue. I connected to the US optimized streaming servers (both East and West), and Hulu was working on my first connection attempt. I streamed Brooklyn Nine-Nine and was impressed that there was almost no buffering and stream quality was immediately HD.

Screenshot of PIA unblocking Hulu US and playing Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Watch Hulu with PIA

BBC iPlayer, DAZN, and More: Blocked

Unfortunately, I couldn’t bypass the BBC iPlayer’s blocks, even while using the UK optimized streaming server. I ran into the same issue with DAZN and Channel 4 — but overall, I was left very impressed by the breadth of the available services compared to what I was expecting.

Screenshot of PIA failing to unblock the BBC iPlayer.
BBC iPlayer was one of the most popular services that PIA was unable to unblock

Speed9.4

Is PIA Fast? It’s Fast Enough for HD Streaming and Gaming

I wanted to make sure I got a good understanding of PIA’s speeds around the world, so I connected to several different servers and used different protocols to get an idea of its performance.

I was happy to see that I had an average speed of about 320Mbps using OpenVPN, and overall low latency with local servers. With WireGuard this fell to around 150Mbps, which surprised me given that it’s supposed to be a faster protocol. Overall, my speeds with local servers remained more than high enough for even up to 4K streaming.

Speed Test Results

All of my baseline speed tests were run on a Windows 10 PC (my average baseline speed is around 1 Gbps). To check the change in speed when connecting multiple devices, I simply added additional devices like phones, tablets, PCs, and smart home devices like my Fire Stick. I then connected to Ookla’s speed test and ran multiple speed tests to find an average speed.

There are a few things in particular that I pay attention to when measuring the performance of a VPN server:

  1. Download speed — The overall most crucial metric that you want to score highly.
  2. Ping (latency) — This tracks the time it takes for a local command to reach the server and get back to your device. Ideally, this should be as low as possible, especially for online gaming.
  3. Dropoff from base speed — Since my speeds will be quite different from yours, I tracked the overall change from my baseline speed so you can see how PIA servers affect performance.
Chart showing various speeds of PIA VPN servers from around the world.
PIA’s speeds were impressive with nearby servers but dropped off harshly at a distance

Local Servers vs Distant Servers

Since you’ll likely want to use your VPN to connect to some far off servers, it’s important to check how performance holds up. Unsurprisingly, PIA’s local servers are multitudes faster than its distant servers, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t usable.

When I chose PIA’s automatic server selection tool it immediately connected me to a Polish server, which was spot on since this is where I’m based. The difference between my baseline speed and VPN speed were quite large, but this is simply amplified since I have a gigabit connection (which almost no VPN can match). In reality, a speed of over 320Mbps is fantastic, and more than capable of handling anything that you throw at it, from high-resolution streaming to large downloads.

Warsaw — Poland (0 km distance)
Download speed 327.77Mbps
% difference from base speed -61.1%
Ping (ms) 8

There was quite a large dropoff from my local server to the Brussels server. However, a speed of almost 190Mbps won’t affect the behavior of any of your online tasks, allowing you to browse, stream, and download rapidly.

Brussels — Belgium (1160 km distance)
Download speed 187.45Mbps
% difference from base speed -77.8%
Ping (ms) 32

Since New York is one of the closest US servers to me and US streaming libraries are home to some of the best content, I was curious how it would perform. I was disappointed by the speeds of just 11Mbps, which are enough to stream in full HD, but are nonetheless a huge drop from my nearby European speeds.

New York — US (6853 km distance)
Download speed 11.19Mbps
% difference from base speed -98.6%
Ping (ms) 153

The Sydney server is by far the furthest from me at almost 15,600 km away. Unfortunately, this led to an enormous performance hit, offering just 4.49Mbps. This resulted in noticeable increases in wait time while streaming, and a general lagginess while browsing and downloading files. While I was able to stream content from 9Now, I was generally frustrated by the slowdown while connected to Sydney.

Australia — Sydney (15594 km distance)
Download speed 4.49Mbps
% difference from base speed -99.4%
-99.4% 312

Access PIA’s high-speed servers

Are PIA’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Yes!

After seeing PIA’s overall good speed results, I was eager to find out if it worked well while gaming. I always chose the preferred server (Auto) and had consistently high speeds and low ping while playing games. Ping (latency) is the most important thing to look out for — the lower it is, the faster your inputs are being sent to the game server and back, giving you a lag-free experience.

I tested this out by playing a few games, including Splitgate and Rocket League. Both are fast-paced online games where every millisecond counts, so a laggy VPN connection just wouldn’t work. Fortunately, the local server that PIA connected me to had a ping of just 8ms, which is actually equal to my ping without a connection active! Even more distant servers like Brussels or London, both with a ping of around 40ms, were perfectly fine for gaming.

Screenshot of PIA connected to a Poland server while playing Splitgate
I played Splitgate without lag while connected to PIA’s preferred server

Enjoy lag-free gaming with PIA

Why Most Speed Tests are Pointless & How We Correctly Test VPN Speeds

Why Most Speed Tests are Pointless & How We Correctly Test VPN Speeds

Speed determines how fast content uploads, so if you're torrenting or streaming, you want the speed to be somewhat identical to your regular internet speed. Since a VPN encrypts your data, it usually takes a bit longer to send your data back and forth, which can slow down your connection. However, if your ISP deliberately slows down your connection (also known as throttling) a VPN might increase your internet speed. Testing a VPN is somewhat pointless because new servers pop up and affect speed. Your speed can also differ according to your location, so your speed test might not match ours. Having said that, we tested the speed in numerous locations to provide you with the average.

Servers9.6

Large Server Network (34400 Servers in 78 Countries)

PIA has over 34400 servers worldwide in more than 78 different countries, giving it one of the largest server networks among premium VPNs. I was impressed to learn that it owns all its servers hosted in third-party data centers worldwide. In fact, PIA has the highest average number of servers per country of all premium VPNs — the latest figures I’ve seen have it at well over 400 servers per country! In contrast, most other VPNs have under 100 per country.

In addition to physical servers, PIA uses virtual servers that allow you to route your connection using a geolocated server elsewhere without leaking your information. You can find them with the globe logo on desktop and mobile. This way, you can get a UK IP address even though your connection is being routed through a physical server elsewhere.

I ran several DNS leak tests to ensure that it couldn’t detect the physical server location. So, even though I was actually routed through physical servers in another country, there were no leaks. This proves that PIA will hide your actual location with reliable encryption. It also has virtual servers in locations that had previously been removed due to regulatory restrictions — such as Brazil.

Screenshot of PIA desktop client and android program, showing the geolocated servers
PIA has a wide variety of servers to give you more options to unblock global content

Unfortunately, PIA doesn’t offer any obfuscated servers. These are great when you want to connect to a VPN without letting anyone (like your ISP or government) know that you’re using a VPN. In most countries this doesn’t matter but in countries where VPN usage is frowned upon or illegal, obfuscation is a must-have. If you need a VPN with this technology, ExpressVPN is one of the few services that offers obfuscated servers, which makes it one of the best VPNs for bypassing internet censorship.

When testing the default server (Auto), the server that PIA chose for me was consistently the same and the one with the highest speeds and lowest latency. I generally had speeds of around 300Mbps, which was plenty for all my online activity. If you want to pick a specific server location, PIA’s desktop interface shows the current latency on a given server, so you can select the fastest one in the region you’re interested in. It’s super easy to get connected with PIA. If you want to run your own tests, you can try PIA’s ‘NextGen VPN Network’ for yourself risk-free as it’s backed by a 30 day money-back guarantee, so it’s easy for you to get a refund if you’re not satisfied.

Try PIA today!

Is PIA Good for Torrenting and P2P? Yes, and No-Logs Keeps Your Data Safe!

PIA offers all the things you need to torrent: fast uploading speeds, unlimited bandwidth, port-forwarding capabilities, and a strict no-logs policy. During my testing, I was able to torrent speedily without any restrictions, and was pleased to find that P2P traffic is supported on all servers. Although the auto-select server feature always connected me to the fastest server at all times, you can handily see which has the lowest latency from the UI.

To check how PIA’s servers handle torrenting, I successfully downloaded a 2.5 GB file in just 9 minutes. Although this average speed of 40Mbps was good, it’s far from the peak I achieved with the same server (over 300Mbps). However, individual torrent speeds are impacted by far more than just the server you’re connected to (like the seed/leech ratio), so there’s not a huge amount we can draw from this.

Screenshot of a torrent download while connected to PIA's Poland server.
I was impressed by PIA’s fast download speeds

PIA offers port forwarding to improve your P2P speeds, which you can activate from the ‘Network’ tab under Settings to open up faster connections. It selects a port automatically for you, which is prominently displayed so you can easily insert it into your torrent program settings. Technically speaking, this allows you to bypass NAT firewalls and connect to more of your torrent’s peers for higher download speeds.

The included kill switch also ensures that should your VPN connection drop, the internet connection is blocked so your unmasked IP address is immediately hidden. This is especially useful for activities like torrenting.

While waiting for my torrent to download I ran some leak tests and was glad to see that no leaks were detected. That said, it’s important to keep in mind that a VPN doesn’t give you a license to commit illegal acts — especially since PIA is under US jurisdiction. This makes it a less than ideal place for anyone who wants to download copyrighted materials. Although the chances of anything happening are low, it’s best to make sure that the torrents you download are copyright-free.

Torrent anonymously with PIA!

Does PIA Work in China? It Might With a Few Steps Before You Travel

The PIA support team informed me that PIA belongs to the group of VPNs that are blocked in China, but offered some workarounds. They suggested first connecting via the WireGuard protocol, and if that didn’t work then using the OpenVPN protocol’s native app.

Although PIA doesn’t run any obfuscated servers that would normally hide your VPN usage, you can configure a Shadowsocks proxy that works similarly. This creates an encrypted path to an outside server which is then the one that makes requests to content that’s normally censored in China, before sending it back to you. So far, Shadowsocks has been remarkably good at bypassing Chinese online restrictions.

Screenshot of a live chat with PIA support discussing support within China.
You might not be able to use PIA in China

A live chat agent directed me to an article on PIA’s knowledge base that guided me through how to set up OpenVPN with my subscription to work in China. Keep in mind that using a non-approved VPN provider in China is illegal. That said, there are no reports of tourists or foreigners on business trips getting in trouble for using one while in the country.

If there’s a VPN my team has personally tested and confirmed to work 100% in China, it’s ExpressVPN. You can easily surf the internet safely in China with ExpressVPN. It even comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it for yourself.

Security Features

Military-Grade Encryption — Powerful Encryption as Standard

PIA uses some of the highest and most customizable VPN encryption settings on the market. You can choose which level of security is right for your needs by changing your VPN protocol and data encryption strength.

For example, you can choose between AES 128- and 256-bit encryption. In practice, both levels of encryption are currently considered highly secure. PIA used to offer more OpenVPN settings such as encryption handshakes and authentication, but removed these due to compatibility issues and for smoother updates going forward.

Screenshot of PIA's connection settings on Windows.
PIA’s interface makes it easy to change all encryption settings

PIA also supports the Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption method that works to protect future data exchange. This method prevents reliance on a single private key during data exchange. Instead, each session’s private key is unique. So, even if a hacker breaks one key, they can’t use it to decrypt any past (or future) data.

Try PIA risk-free

Security Protocols — Strong Choices, but Selection Could Be More Extensive

PIA allows you to choose between OpenVPN, which is currently the most common security protocol, and WireGuard. iOS is slightly different, offering just IPsec as standard. You can select which VPN protocol you’d like to use in the Connections tab. WireGuard is seen as the faster protocol, both in terms of potential speeds and connection time, but my tests didn’t demonstrate this (and it hasn’t proven itself for as long as OpenVPN).

You can also manually configure your devices with PIA using OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and SOCKS5 proxy. This is useful when you can’t install or even download the native PIA app on a device.

You can also always add an extra hop to your VPN’s security by going through a ShadowSOCKS or SOCKS5 proxy in your settings. During my tests, I used the France Server via the Switzerland ShadowSocks proxy to give me an additional hop to route my internet traffic through two locations at the same time. This granted me an extra layer of security but won’t be necessary for most people.

Stay safe with PIA!

Split Tunneling — Easy Setup, but Not on iOS

I was impressed with PIA’s split tunneling feature while testing it. It allowed me to designate which apps pass through the encrypted tunnel and which continue normally. This way, I was able to safely torrent on qBittorrent with a PIA server while keeping my online gaming unencrypted to maintain a faster connection. You can easily turn this feature on from the “Network” tab in the Settings menu.

Note that split tunneling is called “Per App Settings” on Android and currently doesn’t exist on iOS at all. However, it functions well on Windows, Mac, and Android.

Kill Switch — Reliable Protection on All Operating Systems

You can find PIA’s kill switch across all main operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. It being on iOS is particularly good news since many VPNs don’t offer this feature.

During my tests, I was happy to see how effective PIA’s kill switch is. My internet access was immediately disconnected when my VPN connection suddenly stopped. This way, my real IP address was never compromised. This feature is also easily customizable. You can either set it to “off,” “auto,” or “always.” If your connection to a server drops, “auto” blocks traffic just while PIA is running, while “always” will block your traffic even if PIA isn’t running.

Built-in Leak Protection — No Leaks Detected

I was pleased to see that PIA has strong leak protection. To ensure PIA’s servers are truly airtight, I ran several extended DNS leak tests on different servers, including both the virtual and geolocated servers. The results were consistent with the server locations, so I knew my IP wasn’t leaked.

PIA protects against numerous types of leaks, from IPv4 to IPv6 and DNS leaks. Be aware that this is enabled by default on Macs, but has to be manually turned on for Windows.

Prevent DNS leaks with PIA

Extra Features

Dedicated IP Addresses

For a small fee, PIA offers dedicated IP addresses. When you normally connect to a website such as your online banking or other services, they’ll likely recognize that you’re connecting via a VPN. This can lead to them showing you frequent CAPTCHAs, slowing you down and generally annoying you. It’s also much more likely you’ll run into issues with streaming, since streaming services attempt to track VPN IP addresses and block them.

With a dedicated IP, you can bypass these problems. If you value your time, prefer to have a reliable experience connecting to your most important services securely, or want reliable streaming from specific libraries, a dedicated IP is the way to go.

Command-line VPN control and multihop servers

PIA’s desktop apps also include “piactl”, a capable command-line tool that’s geared towards more advanced users. While the regular user interface has limitations and can only be automated in a few basic ways, you can set up command-line tasks to execute under specific circumstances or times. You could set it up to connect to a server 5 minutes after you turn on your device, for instance, or create a shortcut that first connects to a specific location and only then opens up a specific app.

screenshot of operating PIA through the command line.
I was surprised I didn’t need to access the GUI to get connected to PIA

Although this sounds a little complex, it’s quite a lot easier to set up than I first thought. PIA offers documentation on all the available commands, although I found that some of the more complex ones are better left to the pros.

Keep in mind that the graphical interface for PIA has to be running for several core command line prompts to work. However, as long as you have “Launch on System Startup” selected, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Automation

If you prefer not to mess about with command line stuff, you can set up some basic automation within the regular desktop app. This only extends to automatically connecting when you connect to a protected, unsecured, or wired connection, but can be useful to automatically protect yourself while traveling and on public networks.

SOCKS5 Proxy

Many people don’t seem to be aware that within PIA you can access a SOCKS proxy service. It’s different from a VPN connection, being less secure (no encryption) and more detectable. In conjunction with a VPN, this doesn’t matter.

Activating SOCKS5 requires a little more effort, but it offers some benefits. This includes being able to bypass VPN IP blocks, higher speeds on P2P services, and overall better performance compared to older SOCKS versions.

Browse anonymously with PIA

Privacy Features

No-Logs Policy — Tested and Passed

I chatted with customer support about PIA’s no-logs policy and was assured that they do not keep any logs. I was pointed to a transparency report showing subpoenas and court orders requesting for user logs. These real-life cases have proven PIA’s lack of logs. In two separate instances, in 2015 and 2017, the US government requested logs for an investigation, but PIA had nothing to hand over to them.

The only information PIA keeps on file is a record of your email address and payment method, as stated in its privacy policy. For extra caution, you can create an email strictly for signing up for PIA and use an anonymous payment method.

Located in USA — An Unfortunate Location but Good Reputation

A concern for some is PIA’s location in the US. The company itself presents this as a positive, claiming the US has strong laws on data retention and privacy. However, the US is a central member of the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes — powerful groups of countries that routinely share intelligence. Ultimately, it comes down to whether PIA can be trusted not to store any sensitive data in its logs. Fortunately, the evidence would suggest that PIA is indeed a trustworthy, no-logs VPN.

It’s worth noting that PIA is owned by Kape Technologies, which also owns CyberGhost and ZenMate. I’ve checked all of their privacy policies and overall functioning, and I’m content that each company is run independently from the other.

MACE Ad Blocker — Above and Beyond for a VPN Ad Blocker

My team and I have tested many ad blockers that come bundled with VPNs, and the vast majority are far from great. Fortunately, PIA’s MACE is surprisingly good at blocking ads. I put it to the test across multiple ad-heavy websites (like Forbes and the LA Times), and didn’t encounter a single advert.

Besides ads, MACE also maintains a database of servers hosting malware and trackers, and intercepts them before they can load. This combination helped me feel somewhat safe even when I visited extremely sketchy streaming websites that would normally bombard me with pop-up ads and all sorts of tracking attempts.

It’s worth mentioning that MACE is a basic on/off offering, with no additional settings or whitelists to be changed. This is quite different to many other dedicated ad blockers that have extensive options to be catered to your needs. However, for most people who simply want to block known ads and malware, MACE should do the job just fine.

MACE is available on Windows, Mac, and Android, but not iOS. Note that the native Play Store version on Android doesn’t include MACE — instead, you’ll have to download the .apk from the PIA website.

Screenshot of PIA's MACE feature removing ads on a website.
PIA’s MACE feature effectively removed all ads during my tests

Block ads with PIA

Server Locations

The Big Mistake When Comparing Number of Servers and What to Really Look For

Server Locations

Australia
Austria
Belgium
Brazil
Canada
Czech Republic
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Hong Kong
Hungary
India
Ireland
Israel
See all supported locations...

User Experience9.5

PIA supports many popular devices, although not as extensively as some other major VPNs. While CyberGhost offers native apps across many devices such as the Fire Stick, PIA would have to be sideloaded there to function. Although this isn’t very difficult, it’s a less user-friendly process and will stop plenty of people from using it there. You can see the main natively supported devices here:

Computer Mobile Router Firmware
Windows iOS DD-WRT
Mac Android Tomato
Linux Merlin
Pfsense
OpenWRT/LEDE

Native Apps for Windows and Mac — User-Friendly and Useful

I’m a big fan of PIA’s Windows and Mac apps. They have great user interfaces, which can be expanded to reveal plenty of detailed connectivity information, or collapsed to keep things simple. Finding the right server is easy since you’re shown them in order of latency, so you can quickly choose the current fastest one for your location. Although there are no dedicated server categories, you will find some “streaming optimized” servers amongst the regular server locations. I also like being able to favorite my most-used servers so they’re easily accessible from the Quick Connect menu.

Settings are also easy to find and make sense of, with simple descriptions next to every option so you immediately know what you’re changing. It’s a good balance of some powerful connectivity options, combined with simpler functionality like turning on the kill switch or switching between the light and dark themes.

You can install PIA on Windows devices running Windows 8.1, and 10 (32 or 64 bit), and macOS devices (64-bit only) running 10.13 or newer. Note that the Windows and macOS apps both support OpenVPN and WireGuard.

You can find a range of the best VPNs for Windows if you’d like to see how the top programs stack up against one another.

Install PIA in under 5 minutes

Quick Guide: How to Install PIA on Your Computer

The overall installation is also extremely simple, as you can see here:

  1. Go to the PIA website and click the Download tab. The website will automatically detect your operating system, providing you with the version of the software you need.
  2. After downloading the installer, install PIA using the installation wizard.
  3. PIA will appear in the hidden icons dock on your taskbar. Click the icon for the desktop client and select a server and connect.

Try PIA risk-free!

Dedicated Apps for Android and iOS — Slicks Apps with Some Subtle Differences

The key features between PIA’s desktop and mobile apps are mostly the same, but there are a few differences. The most notable distinction between them is the lack of split tunneling on iOS, which is something that’s unfortunately the case with many VPNs. iOS is also missing the MACE ad and malware blocking feature, which was replaced with Safari Content Blocker due to a conflict with Apple. Unfortunately, this tool doesn’t block ads system-wide like MACE, and you’re out of luck if you use a browser other than Safari.

On the other hand, iOS offers the most protocol choices of all PIA apps (OpenVPN, IPsec, WireGuard, and IKEv2). It also offers a Network Management section where you can tag specific WiFi networks as trusted or not — useful for connecting or disconnecting to PIA based on your location. Siri is also integrated so you can simply give voice commands to connect or disconnect.

PIA will run on the following versions:

  • Android 5.0 or newer (mobile devices only)
  • iOS 11 or newer (only 64-bit devices)

PIA has also created a free dedicated private browser for Android and iOS called InBrowser. If you use it and then close the browser, it will clear all data and history created during that session. This is great if you want to browse sensitive or adult content, or if a family member or friend temporarily wants to log into one of their accounts on your device. You can also activate TOR mode so all traffic is routed through the TOR network for additional privacy and encryption. There are no ads or trackers included with the app (which would seem counterintuitive in any case).

Screenshot of PIA's InBrowser app for Android
PIA’s InBrowser is helpful for browsing with its added privacy features

I was pleasantly surprised by InBrowser’s speed and simplicity, as well as the fact that it didn’t seem to have issues loading any types of content. In some other private browsers I’ve used there have been problems loading videos, so that’s a definite plus. One thing that stood out to me was how aggressive the app was by default — simply clicking the button on Android to show all background apps led to InBrowser immediately shutting down and wiping all browsing data. However, you can change the settings to allow it to run in the background for a set amount of time instead.

During testing, I found that PIA had no trackers installed on its Android app. I used Exodus to scan the PIA Android app to see if it collected any usage data. I was pleased to find no records of such activity, further confirming PIA’s lack of trackers and logging. Several other popular VPNs, like NordVPN, are known to include multiple trackers in their mobile apps (realistically just harmless usage data but the less of this, the better).

A screenshot of the Exodus tool, which shows there are no trackers installed on PIA's software
I was happy to see that Exodus didn’t find any trackers on PIA’s application

Browser Extensions — A Surprisingly Strong Offering

With PIA’s browser extensions you can connect to a VPN server from within your Chrome, Firefox, or Opera browser without applying the connection to your whole device. This will ensure that your browser’s traffic is encrypted and anonymized, which can be useful in situations when you can’t install the VPN to a particular device but still want to be protected while browsing.

PIA currently support the following browsers:

  • Chrome v48 or newer
  • Firefox v57 or newer
  • Opera v52 or newer
Screenshot of PIA VPN's browser extension settings.
PIA offers some useful and unexpected browser extension settings

There are an impressive number of features here for a browser extension, which in my experience are generally very limited in comparison to their desktop and mobile cousins. You can block third-party cookies and trackers, as well as access to your camera, microphone, and location data. I’m also a fan of the options to block WebRTC IP detection (to prevent leaks) and forcing the use of HTTPS across websites to keep your data encrypted. Overall, these extensions are a solid addition to PIA’s app library.

If you prefer a fully free and non-browser based VPN, you can check out the best free VPNs and see if they’re the right choice for your needs.

Other Platforms Supported — Linux and Routers

Although Linux users will likely have some ability to use the command line, PIA is actually one of the few VPNs that doesn’t require you to make use of them. It offers a full graphical user interface for you to interact with, change settings, and connect to servers. Of course, you still have the option to use the command line and having this choice is simply a great addition to the Linux app.

PIA supports the following Linux distros (64-bit and desktop versions only):

  • Ubuntu 18.04 or newer
  • Mint 19 or newer
  • Arch
  • Debian

As for routers, there’s a major benefit to installing PIA at this level rather than on every device — you can connect an unlimited number of devices to a single router and all devices will be protected. This is great for conserving the number of simultaneous device connections that PIA offers (up to 10). The downside is that you have to choose a location for your router to be connected to and at times, it won’t be the one that you want for a specific device.

PIA supports the following router firmware:

  • DD-WRT
  • Tomato
  • Merlin
  • Pfsense
  • OpenWRT/LEDE
  • OpenVPN-compatible routers

Support9.6

PIA has a robust knowledge base, email support, and live chat, but its Twitter support has poor feedback. However, I found the knowledge base had helpful information, and both live chat and email support worked well for me.

Tested: 24/7 Live Chat

Each time I started a support chat, I rarely had to wait more than a minute before getting connected to an agent. During the testing process, I connected to live chat support at least 15 times and didn’t have to wait more than 1 minute a single time. Support agents were always friendly, but their knowledge varied a lot depending on the complexity of the question (which didn’t get particularly complex).

One of the questions I asked was if PIA supports double VPN functionality. I wanted to know if it was possible to route my internet traffic through multiple server locations at the same time. The support agent quickly informed me that it didn’t, but also pointed me to a guide on the knowledge base on how I could use the SOCKS5 proxy feature to achieve the same goal.

I also asked about the pros and cons of using virtual vs physical servers, and the agent at first didn’t know what I was asking about. Once they understood, they linked me to an external article that was overly complex when a few simple lines would have sufficed. Although the articles were relevant and helped solve my problem, the outsourcing of instant answers to outside material was noticeable compared to other VPNs like ExpressVPN that generally have more knowledgeable support staff.

Screenshot of live chat conversation with a PIA VPN agent.
I appreciated that PIA’s customer support went straight to the point and answered my question

You can contact PIA support 24/7 through live chat, although it’s only available in English. I’m a huge fan of the fact that you can connect to a customer support agent without having to enter any details at all, or needing an active subscription like many other VPNs. This makes it infinitely easier to get the help you need or simply inquire about things before you decide to subscribe.

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Tested: Email Support

To test PIA’s email support, I created multiple support tickets and sent several emails for different inquiries. The results were overall very positive, with fast responses (always within 24 hours) and more detail included than I’d seen in the live chat replies. Importantly, I sent some initial requests from non-customer email addresses and still received quick responses.

In some cases, I was even surprised that I received detailed answers compared to when I asked the same questions via live chat, as you can see in the image below.

Screenshot of a reply from PIA VPN email support.
PIA’s email support response time was faster than I expected

Tested: Twitter Support

PIA support via Twitter worked fine but wasn’t as fast as I expected for the medium. I tweeted @PIACSM and sent a DM enquiring about its browser extension but didn’t get any response until 20 hours later. I expected a significantly faster response time for this channel compared to emaill but it was about the same. If this is the standard, it makes it somewhat irrelevant as a support channel, although having a public platform to voice your complaints is always useful.

Online Knowledge Base

During my interaction with the live chat support channel, I was directed to several pages in PIA’s knowledge base. I was impressed with the information in some of the articles, covering many general and more technical aspects of using all PIA apps. The forums on PIA’s website and Reddit were filled with a ton of information about PIA’s features and troubleshooting tips. The VPN even has representatives on the Reddit forum and its knowledge base community to provide accurate information and answer questions.

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How We Test Customer Support and Why Should You Care

How We Test Customer Support and Why Should You Care

We personally test the customer support team of every VPN we review. This means asking technical question through the live chat feature (where applicable) and measuring the response time for email questions. Whether you need to connect to a specific server, change your security protocol, or configure a VPN on your router, finding a VPN with quality customer support should be important to you.

Pricing9.7

Payment Methods — Multiple Card and Anonymous Payment Options

Private Internet Access has a variety of unique payment methods, including:

  1. Credit Cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover)
  2. PayPal
  3. Amazon Pay
  4. Cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and the BitPay platform)
  5. Popular retail gift cards (Starbucks, The Home Depot, Walmart, and more)

The option to pay with a gift card is great, since it’s a fairly anonymous way to pay for your PIA membership compared to using your regular bank card. To access this feature, you have to go to the payment screen, where you can select which retailer’s gift cards you want to trade in. You can also use cryptocurrencies for more anonymity when paying, although these are mostly pseudonymous and not completely anonymous (depending on how you acquired them).

If you want to get the most features for your money, PIA’s 3-year plan subscription is currently the best deal. It also comes with a 1-year subscription to Boxcryptor, a cloud encryption service that protects your Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and other cloud storage platforms on an unlimited amount of devices.

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Money-Back Guarantee

You can try PIA risk-free and test its features with its 30-day money-back guarantee. When I tested it, all I had to do was reach out to PIA’s customer support through live chat. I told the agent that I wanted to cancel my account, and they asked if there was anything they could do to troubleshoot. I explained that I didn’t need the service anymore and wanted a refund. You should note that the agent needed my invoice number to confirm my identity to cancel my account. Without me asking, the agent sent my original invoice to the email I signed up with, which was very useful to prevent me having to dig it out myself. After I provided this number, the agent processed my request in seconds, and I got a refund in 4 days.

screenshot of PIA customer service chat while requesting a refund.
I appreciated how accommodating PIA’s customer service team was while handling my cancellation request

One of the unique features of PIA’s refund policy is that you can take advantage of it every 3 months — albeit with a new account. This information is listed in its Terms of Service under the Refund category.

screenshot of PIA's refund policy
I was surprised to see that I could use PIA’s refund more than once

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Private Internet Access offers the following plans

Private Internet Access offers the following plans